There are many reasons to be thankful in Utah

The Better UTAH Beat airs Tuesday afternoons on KVNU’s For the People. Podcasts of previous episodes are available here.
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It’s a commonplace that politics is a mean and divisive sport. A recent article in the New Yorker by Harvard political science professor Jill Lepore noted that our political discourse has become more polarized than at any other time since the Civil War. Even the nation’s brightest minds are having a hard time figuring out why.

Since politics is rarely a pretty thing, we find it especially important to take a moment to show gratitude, or perhaps a better phrase would be “moderate optimism”, for the quality of life we enjoy in Utah. Thanksgiving may have already ended, but at the Alliance for a Better UTAH, we’re still finding many reasons to be thankful.

Government, when looked at through an admittedly cheery lens, is about the human ability to cooperate for the combined benefit of society. Libertarians will point to this as a silly progressive idea. But there are many conservatives who will similarly note that government is a tremendous force for good. We’re thankful for government supported structures, like Medicaid, that ensure that even the poorest among us are given a higher quality of life.

We’re thankful to live in a state that has some of the highest rates of volunteering in the entire United States. We also have some of the highest rates of charitable giving. Utahns are optimistic and kind people.

We’re thankful for the freedom of speech. A large part of our role as a good government non-profit rests on our ability to hold our leaders accountable by openly criticizing them–without fear of retribution.

We’re thankful for the myriad of environmental groups, like HEAL Utah, that are working to clean up the air in the various Utah Valleys. Cache Valley, the Salt Lake Valley and Utah Valley are already being plagued by bad air days–and it is only December. But organizations like HEAL are keeping the pressure on Utah leaders and citizens to clean up the dirty air.

We’re thankful for a state legislature that was willing to investigate one of its own. The decision to form an investigative probe into John Swallow’s behavior, though obvious to the majority of Utahns, was a hard choice for the majority party in the state legislature. But, led by Rep. Jim Dunnigan, the committee has been thorough and professional in its investigation.

Politics, of course, isn’t all rosy in Utah. There is a lot to criticize, too. As a one-party state, sustained and reasoned debate about policies is often hard to come by. And our congested valleys can make winter breathing especially difficult. But many Utah leaders show they are willing to look at the various sides of a debate–even if that can sometimes be rare. And, those mountains. It might be hard to see them on some days, but they sure are beautiful.

Indeed, there is a lot to be thankful for in Utah.

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